Mondolkiri provincial Governor Tor Soeurth is launching an investigation into the defrocking of three monks and the destruction of their pagoda late last month, suggesting authorities may have targeted the monks over a political dispute.
Tor Soeurth, a member of Funcinpec, said he did not order the defrocking or the destruction of the temple, since he was in Phnom Penh at the time.
Tor Soeurth said he did not know why first Deputy Governor Khoy Khum Huor, who was in charge, did not consult him first. He added that the acting authorities, including Khoy Khum Hour, are CPP supporters.
“It is not appropriate that the provincial authorities defrock the monks and remove the pagoda,” Tor Soeurth said. “I have to investigate more.”
Pagoda representatives and supporters sent a written complaint dated Nov 27 to the Cambodian Defenders Project, an NGO that provides free legal advice and representation to the poor, alleging that local police, military and government officials unjustly defrocked three monks and forcibly closed their pagoda three days earlier.
The head of the pagoda, monk Yem Socheat, now in Phnom Penh, said authorities accused him of raping many women and of being pro-Funcinpec. He said they threatened to defrock him, though he was not actually defrocked.
Khoy Khum Huor denied that police and government officials defrocked the monks, but said that they are tearing down the pagoda to protect the land for local hill tribes who use it for worship. He said the religious authority defrocked the monks because they had insulted top spiritual leaders.
The monks denied the charge.
In their complaint, signed with thumbprints of 61 people, the monks and supporters wrote that only recently did authorities complain about the pagoda, which was licensed in 1999.